Sean Foley made a splash in 2010. Though he was known prior to this year as the coach of Sean O’Hair, Justin Rose, and Hunter Mahan (along with lesser knowns Stephen Ames and Parker McLachlin), Foley’s dim star became noticeable at dusk as rumors that Tiger Woods, dumped by his coach Hank Haney, was going to begin working with the 36-year old Canadian. When the arrangement became official around the time of the year’s final major, the Foley star became one of the brightest in the sky.
Capitalizing on his new-found fame (and helping charity – see comments), Sean Foley has put together a Blu-Ray/DVD instructional video that shares his understanding of the golf swing with the masses. Tiger’s already shown remarkable improvement, despite remaining winless in 2010, but with solid performances in the Ryder Cup, Australian Masters, and his own Chevron World Challenge. For about $50 USD including the $12.50 S&H charge, you too can learn from Sean Foley.
Sean Foley’s Core Ideas
Though the idea that Sean Foley had learned a lot from Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer, “inventors” of the Stack and Tilt pattern, bubbled beneath the surface for a good portion of the year, it came to a head when Charlie Wi made some comments in response to a Sean Foley interview late in the year.
Wi took exception to Foley’s tendencies to subtly put down or distance himself Bennett, Plummer, and their swing pattern. Wi saw how often Foley would come up to the duo and ask advice on what to work on next with O’Hair or Mahan, or would show them video, or ask them questions about why something works the way it does. If one was forced to choose a single comment which set off Wi it would be Foley’s assertion that he credits them with “maybe five percent” of his own swing. Rich Hunt covered this in an article fairly well, and while I don’t want to rehash it here, I will say that Foley is gracious enough to include a quick list of his influences in the introduction, including Mark Evershed, David Leadbetter, Mike Bennett, and Andy Plummer among a few others.
At the end of the day, Sean Foley’s core swing philosophy is incredibly similar to Stack and Tilt. Whether he came up with it all on his own or, from the countless hours of tutelage under Plummer and Bennett, or any combination is irrelevant as far as this review goes. Sean prefers a one-plane swing with a centered pivot. Foley wants your hands and the clubhead to stay on their plane without lifting off the body, your shoulders to turn in a circle around a fixed center, your head to remain steady, and for your lower body to move aggressively forward on the downswing. That’s all stuff I understand and teach, so I’m happy for more instruction like this to make its way to the masses.
The DVD (I can only assume the Blu-Ray disc is exactly the same but in higher definition) breaks down loosely as follows:
1:31 - Disc Intro 1:42 - Introduction 33:14 - Lessons (All) 26:18 - Bonus Drills 17:54 - Team Foley 0:40 - Sean Foley in Five Words 2:12 - Closing
In other words, there’s roughly an hour of instruction: the Lessons (swing philosophy) and Bonus Drills. Several of the “Bonus Drills” include tips on putting, hitting flop shots or chip shots with a hybrid or fairway metal, etc. and are not full-swing drills. The full swing is about 45 minutes of the 83 (the box says 89) minutes.
Of the 33 minutes devoted to Lessons, each of the six lessons 2-7 is followed by a drill or two, meaning that Foley’s entire swing philosophy is covered in under 14 minutes (excluding Lesson 1, which isn’t specific to any golf swing pattern):
2:11 - Lesson 1 - Ball Flight 2:12 - Lesson 2 - Reaction Position (setup) 2:33 - Lesson 3 - Takeaway 2:34 - Lesson 4 - Top of Swing 2:06 - Lesson 5 - Downswing 2:26 - Lesson 6 - Impact 1:54 - Lesson 7 - Exit Strategy (follow-through)
The filler material includes one introduction that talks up Sean Foley by way of Sean O’Hair, Hunter Mahan, and Justin Rose clips. That clip is followed by a second introduction from Sean Foley himself, a piece of which you saw above in the “influences” clip. The dics round out with twenty more minutes of fluff: the “Team Foley” segment contains interesting but instructionally sparse segments with Hunter Mahan, Sean O’Hair, and Stephen Ames. The “Sean Foley in Five Words” segment is funniest when O’Hair uses “short” as one of his words and the closing is, so far as I remember, Foley thanking his family for their support.
I have to assume that most golfers really couldn’t care less about PR, marketing, or “thanks mom” and will buy this disc for the hour of instructional content.
Unfortunately, this disc is an incredible disappointment from an instructional perspective. The 45 minutes of full-swing instructional content is littered with distractingly poor grammar, incorrect (mis-)statements, and few checkpoints for students to gauge their own flaws, progress, and imrovements.
Lesson 1 covers the ball flight laws in two minutes. First we’re shown video as Foley explains the “old” ball flight laws. I’ll let slide that when he says “if the club is open the ball curves to the right” because that’s still true – the biggest flaw with the “old ball flight laws” was that they said the ball started in the direction of the club’s path. Foley then makes a small mistake when he says the ball starts “generally at a 90° angle to where from face is pointed.” It’s not really 90°, but for the sake of simplicity, that’s fine.
Foley then tells us that a proper draw is hit with a clubface that’s “open” (he doesn’t say to what – and it wouldn’t have taken long to say “or right of the target” to clarify this). He also says the clubface is pointed to the right “because the hands are forward,” which isn’t really true at all – good players can hit a pull-fade with their hands forward. When discussing a fade (presumably a pull-fade), Foley mistakenly says that the clubface is “closed to the arc on which we swing” and the path is out to in. That’s misleading (if it’s closed to that arc it’s a pull-draw at best) or flat out wrong, depending on how gracious you care to be.
At the end of the explanation Foley hits two shots, a draw and a fade, neither from a camera position that shows anything useful at all. He summaries the lesson by repeating the 90° rule and saying the ball will curve in the direction of the path, then says to curve the ball left you swing to the right and vice versa (i.e. the opposite direction of the path).
Given the number of golfers (and instructors) out there who still believe the “old ball flight laws” are accurate, I’d have loved to see this explained in five minutes rather than two along with Trackman data and some slow-motion video.
This segment concludes with the throw-away phrase “as always, golf is a game of opposites.” Really? Always? It’s just the first of many “throw-away” quotes.
Lesson 2 is called the “Reaction Position.” In other words, “setup” or “address.” Foley says:
If you look at PGA Tour players, there’s no two are the same height, the same weight, but the one thing they have in common is that even though their setups look different, they’re still set up over a base to make a ballistic movement and a power movement with the golf swing absolutely is.Sean Foley, Lesson 2, “Reaction Position”
Foley likes to use big words, but often does so in the way that makes him look like he’s trying really hard to sound smart. The run-on sentences do little to mask this flaw and many times it’s kind to call them sentences as Foley’s grammar is lackluster. Foley then gets “anterior tilt” and “posterior tilt” backwards – one of the many errors that should have been caught and corrected. Normally things like this wouldn’t matter, but in instructional material it’s often best to be clear and it’s always important to use the correct terms. If Foley wants to use big words, he should endeavor to use them properly.
As for the instruction, Foley focuses heavily on cementing yourself to the ground but neglects other factors of setup including whether your chin should be up or down (it affects how you see the ball among other things), how flexed the knees and ankles and hips should be, whether the feet point out or in, whether your spine is tilted away from the target or remains vertical, etc. I know the answers, and you might pick some of them from watching, but it’d be nice to have the setup fully explained.
Foley makes a big deal out of “gripping the ground” with our feet like they’re fingers digging in, and rightly so, but unfortunately ends the segment with another throw-away phrase: “You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe.” That phrase is an appropriate one, but the segment would have fit together better had Foley perhaps started with it and used it to help explain why gripping the ground with your feet was important. Instead, it’s tossed in at the end, leaving the viewer to figure out how it relates.
Two drills – and a few more big words like “innveration of the muscles” -follow this lesson. The drills are fine, but I still think it might have been better to spend more time on fully explaining the setup than telling me to stand on sponges or a half balance ball for 15-20 minutes per day.
Lesson 3 covers the takeaway. We’re told to make the club “slightly vertical” and “slightly diagonal.” Foley says that this makes the club light (the weight doesn’t change, of course, but a steep club shaft will feel lighter). Foley also makes a big deal about the sequencing – first the clubhead moves, then the arms, then the torso, and then the hips.
So in summation, in order to get the club started well, which is really one of the most important parts of the golf swing, you have to do it into a reference of sequence. Clubhead first, arms second, torso third, hips fourth, and the whole time we’re trying to create this angle in our hands and arms which gets the club in a slightly vertical position ensuring that the weight of the object is nice and light, which is gonna ensure us to be able to promote and produce more speed.Sean Foley, Lesson 3, The Takeaway
The first drill in this section is a stick drill that illustrates where the club shaft is pointing. Foley illustrates how his “slightly vertical” position has the butt end of the club pointing between his feet and the ball.
Oddly, he describes this position as being “on plane” despite the fact that if you actually swing the golf club on that plane you’d miss the ball by eight inches. Still, we’re encouraged to do this “no less than 90 to 100 times per day for about a month.”
The second drill is a towel drill. Wrap a towel around your body, and swing the club back. Foley demonstrates doing this improperly two different ways, saying each time that “the towel will fall out” if done wrong. The towel does not fall out either time, leaving the viewer to wonder exactly what he means.
The towel drill (I prefer tees or something smaller in my instruction) is an important drill, and it speaks to what’s called Pressure Point 4 – the pressure between your left arm and your chest – and Pressure Point 5 beneath your right armpit. Unfortunately, Foley never even came close to touching on these pressure points, what they’re for, why they’re important, etc. during the lesson.
Remember the earlier part about how we’re supposed to sequence the takeaway, with the clubs, arms, torso, and hips starting at different times? Foley says while explaining the towel drill that “What this is going to do is, in continuance of making sure that the club, the clubhead, the arms, the torso, and the hips move together…”. This might confuse the viewer: do they start at different times or “together”? Things like this make me wonder if they had a script or just winged everything.
The lessons continue in this haphazard fashion. Lesson 4 is “Top of the Swing” and starts off with this gem:
As we move into the top of the swing what we’re looking at is continuing from the takeaway is making sure and ensuring that the body and arms are doing the correct thing to work in connection with each other in collaboration with each other.Sean Foley, Lesson 4, Top of the Backswing
Foley uses this section to talk about the left shoulder moving down and the head staying stable. I agree with and like both of these things, but am disappointed that Foley never explains how the head stays stable. Foley never touches on what the knees and hips do in the backswing, and I think the lead shoulder going down is a better fit for the “Takeaway” lesson than the “Top of the Swing” lesson. I’m disappointed as well that when discussing the “tilt” (which is part of where Stack and Tilt gets its name), Mr. Big Words uses the awfully generic word “body,” as in “the tilting of the body.” We’re never told what part of the body tilts or where we’ll feel or see this tilt, or what happens if we don’t “tilt the body” properly. This is an important part of Foley’s swing philosophy, and he famously demonstrated the “tilting” to Tiger Woods on the range during the 2010 PGA Championship, yet all we get in his instructional video is “tilt your body.”
Lesson 5 covers the downswing. There’s something about how the force we exert down into the ground during the backswing is “much like the earthquake that creates a tsunami” or, for a golfer, the “catalyst to clubhead speed.” Foley tells us that as the hips and left knee push forward, the arms will “vertically drop onto the shaft plane.” I’m not sure what he means by shaft plane here, and unfortunately, you won’t either as it’s never defined or explained.
Lesson 6 covers “impact, or the moment of truth as it’s more popularly called.” No, I think it’s more popularly called impact, and this is yet another one of the examples of throw-away phrases that probably would have been left out had there been a script. These throw-away phrases, like the run-on sentences, pepper the entire video and distract from an already weak message. Another example of something that could have been worded better follows shortly afterwards: “You have to hit down in order to make the ball go up.” That’s not true at all, as a great many high handicappers succeed in getting the ball airborne while the clubhead is moving up with their flipping, chicken-winging motions. Foley’s intent, to be sure, is to emphasize that the handle should be forward at impact and the club still traveling down, out, and forward to deliver maximum compression to the ball, but the throw-away and/or incorrect phrases draw away from that message.
Lesson 7 covers the follow-through and contains two of my favorite Foley-isms. “As in the rest of the swing, we’re trying to get the club to swing on the arc or perpendicular to it, which is in a circle that is working around us.” Aren’t all golf swings around the golfer? And when – and why – should we swing perpendicular to that arc, exactly?
Then we’re told that if we do the follow-through properly, “[It’s] going to prepare us that we’re not going to get into over-use injury and end up having to go to rehab.” So if I do it wrong I’m going to injure myself and need rehab? Really? Pardon me while I resist the urge to embed an Amy Winehouse video now…
Following the half hour of instructional content, 15 drills take up just about 25 minutes minutes of the disc and conclude the instructional content. As before, Foley typically doesn’t bother to tell you when you should use a certain drill or what fault the drill fixes, so you’re left to discover these things on your own.
The drills presented are as follows:1:34 - #1 Cadence 1:45 - #2 One Foot 1:10 - #3 Left Arm Only 1:37 - #4 Right Arm Only 2:09 - #5 Downhill 1:23 - #6 Sequence 2:11 - #7 How to Practice 1:53 - #8 The Driver 2:24 - #9 Chipping Setup 1:17 - #10 Left Hand Only 1:52 - #11 Wedge System 1:49 - #12 The Flop 1:19 - #13 Utility Chip 1:55 - #14 Path Drill 1:55 - #15 Speed Drill
As you can guess, everything after Drill #8 is a short game drill, and drill #7 isn’t really a drill at all (nor is #1), but rather how to find a rhythm (swing slowly and build up speed is #1) and how to practice. The Cadence drill beings with:
There’s a lot of discussion about rhythm in the swing. I think it’s one of the most difficult things to quantify, obviously empirically. Now what we do understand is there is a resonance, which is kind of the music that goes along with the physics and the angles and the velocity.Sean Foley, Bonus Drill #1, Cadence
Take Bonus Drill #4, the “Right Arm Only” drill. At one point in the segment Foley says that we have to “keep the right arm close to the body” in the backswing. Below is an image of Foley demonstrating this swing, and I’ll let you be the judge – is his right arm connected to the body or would the glove have fallen out of his right armpit?
One of the gems hidden away in this section is the idea of what’s called the right forearm or right wrist flying wedge. Unfortunately, this topic is given very little time and never really fully explained, and it’s not something that’s exclusive to a right-arm-only drill. It’s one of many missed opportunities to truly educate the viewer.
I believe, given the many, many simliarities between Sean Foley’s swing and the swing pattern I prefer to teach, that a successful video would have helped golfers far and wide. And given the changes we’ve seen in the swings of Sean O’Hair, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, and now Tiger Woods, that Foley is good at communicating with his students.
Unfortunately, that ability does not come across in this video at all. Instead, golfers are given little actual information, and when they’re given information there’s a good chance Foley will still manage to make a mess of it with poor grammar, no explanation, or the occasional incorrect statement. The run-on sentences, random use of big words (sometimes incorrectly) alongside generic words like “body,” and often contradictory or disorderly advice is mentally exhausting.
Students are given no checkpoints. They’re given no way to measure their swings or check their progress. Drills are given without telling students what problem they’re going to solve or who should use them. For a high-tech guy and $100 to $200 cameras there’s nothing on filming your swing or what to look for when you view your swing on video.
The DVD feels like a rush job done in a day or two with no re-takes and no script. Foley has talked about the “revolutionary graphics” and yet even those are limited to a few squiggly lines and angle measurements drawn on the screen – hardly what I’d call “next generation” graphics.
Because I teach a swing pattern that’s awfully similar to Foley’s, I understood the video well enough to get through it without being thoroughly confused. When Foley refers to “body tilt” I know what he’s trying to say. I can figure out what he’s trying to say most of the time. The average golfer will likely not be so fortunate.
I’m willing to pay a premium for good golf instruction, because one good tip or feel or idea that I can use is worth far more than the $50 this video costs, and yet I still feel short-changed. The average golfer will feel even more so because the video will leave them with many more questions than answers. My advice? Don’t spend the $50. I don’t even know if I’d spend $10 for one of the copies that will surely be on eBay very soon – it’s still 83 minutes of your time and ten bucks.
I had reasonably high hopes for this video, but it’s less solid than the nearly topped shot Foley hits in Lesson 5.